May 31, 2011

#76- Getting a Handle on the Situation

It's been a little while since we've taken a peak at the Laundry Room, mostly because I'm still pretty crabby with Ikea that their wooden counter tops are still on back order.  I mean, who do they think they are?  The only store that sells solid wood counter tops for an incredibly low price?  Oh yeah.  So we wait.  And the room currently looks like this:

Please try to pretend that the electric blue counter tops, and the paint that I slapped all over them are not there.  Thanks much.
So until we can make some big changes with counter tops, accessories and maybe even a new rug and curtains, I thought I'd go with a little change that will hopefully go a long way- cabinet hardware.  I was suddenly inspired when I unpacked a box and found these handy little tools that we had purchased for our kitchen remodel in The Bungalow:

Now I know that you can make up a template on your own with cardboard or something, but we grabbed these little guys on an end cap for only $6 and they more than paid for themselves.  And now that we've moved into a hardware-phobic home, we can use these templates in the Kitchen, Laundry Room, built-ins the the Family Room and the crazy china cabinet in the Family Room that we hope to convert into a wine bar.  So I picked up a couple of simple, clean lined pulls from Ikea and went to work.

I momentarily freaked out that Ikea and those crazy Sweeds are on the metric system, until I realized that my handy little template was totally prepared for my European curve ball, and had one set of metric system spaced guides that fit my handles perfectly.  Score.  Or as the Europeans say, "Gooooooooooooal!"

All I had to do was mark the holes, drill a 3/8" hole, and attach the hardware.  In under 20 minutes I had this:

I was sort of underwhelmed by the before and after, until I scrolled back in my camera and compared it to this:

I think it goes a big way towards making this room feel more complete and finished.  I'm more eager than ever to finish up this room now, but it looks like I'm going to have to play by Ikea's time line on this one.  In the mean time I have, I have no shortage of other projects to get started on!

May 27, 2011

#6, #13, #33, #48 Part 1- We're Floored!

After the crazy marathon that was the tile, lath and concrete removal, (almost as bad as a Jon & Kate Plus 8 Marathon), we instantly got to work on the new sub-floors.

Dining Room floor after tile removal

Kitchen floor after tile removal

Kitchen Floor after tile removal

It's not that we weren't tired absolutely exhausted and needed a break, because trust me, we did.  But the rough floors left behind after all the concrete came up were dangerous, with lots of little nails popping up, bits on concrete still suck to the floor, and even tiny pieces of that sharp wire lath pocking the surface.  So even though we would have much rather taken a break for awhile to recoup, we had to get right to work to make this home livable and safe for our family. 

All that danger lead to the "Shoe Rule", where no one walks in our house without shoes on, ever.

Why did we need to lay a new sub-floor on top of the one we just unearthed from tons of concrete?  Well, since we had removed over an inch and a half of surface from the original sub-floors, we had to lay down a new layer of wood to raise the height in those areas back up and make the floors all the same, level height.  We actually had to go up a 1/2" in the foyer to be level with the Living Room, and we needed just a 1/4" in the Dining Room and Kitchen.   Plus, the original sub-floors might have taken a little beating from all that chiseling and sledgehammering, so putting a nice strong layer on top of them would really help reinforce the surface.  Not to mention that no amount of scraping was ever going to get every bit of concrete and nail out of the original floors, so placing a new one on top provided us with a nice, smooth surface for our new floors.  Oh- but there still was scraping, and plenty of it!

Close up of a section full of nails, leftover concrete and lath. 

Step one was to start with a section, and then hammer, pull and scrape at it until the new sub-floor would lay evenly on top of it, without any wobbling.  Lucky for me, the Hubs took this project on, as I set up with my work station out in the garage.

As the more exact member of team One Project at a Time, I was the designated measurer and cutter of the new sub-floor pieces.  The idea is to cut your pieces so that they lay directly on top of the floor joists.  This way we could fasten them all the way into the joists, and not just the sub-floor below, for a strong, sturdy floor.  This is made a little trickier, however, because you do not want to just follow the same pattern as the floor below, but stagger the seams for more strength.  Throw in some wonky air vents, corners and room transitions and you've got a lot of complicated cuts in large 4' x 8' sheets of wood that need to be cut just perfectly.  After explaining this, Jason was more than happy to be "The Scraper."

Here's a close up on my tools:

1. B-C Rated Plywood to correct thickness (1/2" in Foyer and 1/4" in Kitchen and Dining Room) with smooth side laid up.
2. 4' T-Square for measuring exact placement of cuts on the board.  This tool was priceless.
3. Jig Saw for cutting small and difficult areas
4. Circular saw for cutting long and straight pieces. 
5. Measuring Tape.  (I needed about 3 of these, as I was constantly asking, have you seen my tape?  I need to finally unpack the tool belts!)
6. Mechanical pencil for always sharp, exact measurement lines.
7. Note pad where I sketched out all my pieces and measurements before cutting.  (For me, it was good to have a visual.)
8. Saw Horses.  I actually had 2 saw horses and 1 small work table, which worked well to balance my huge sheets of plywood, and avoided one side crashing down after I made a cut.

And for those of you who keep asking how we are able to get some much work done with a 2 year old in the house, here's the answer:

The truth is, he loves DIY as much as we do, and for the most part is a little expert at staying where he should, touching only what he is allowed to touch and just hanging out and watching the action.  His favorite thing was watching me cut the big pieces with the saw from his designated safety zone of the step, (as long as he had his protective ear wear on.) He's also sporting his "Fireman Boots" to make sure his feet were safe.  Hey- that's where my tape measure went....
So while Ry and I were outside cutting sheets, Jason was scraping and pulling like a mad man, turning the previously dangerous piece into this:

Then we just placed down our cut boards, did a happy dance or cursed under our breath depending on if they fit or not, and screwed them in with the 2" wood screws that the helpful man in orange at the store suggested.

Kitchen in Progress

Foyer in Progress

Dining Room in Progress

It was a little slow going since it took us nearly a half an hour prior to laying each 4' x 8' sheet to completely scrape and clean that area, but it was all coming together nicely.  Eventually we had this:

Kitchen Eating Area Complete!

Kitchen Complete!
Notice how most of these photos are taken when it is dark outside?  It was a few long days and nights, and it's just a fact of our lives right now that a lot more gets done in the evenings after the little pumpkin goes to bed. He was pretty hilarious when he woke up the next morning and they were completed though. "Oh Mommy," he said while motioning to the floors like Vanna White, "these new wood floors are beautiful!"  Ha!  Little does he know the maple planked goodness that is about to cover these bad boys.  And that post my friends, will be coming to you shortly.  That is, after the family and I take a little forced vacation from home improvement this holiday weekend.  I went back and forth about missing an entire 4 day weekend of home improvement time, especially since it's one of those rare times when Jason has Friday-Monday off too, (it's like an eclipse I tell you!) but in the end we decided that it was more important for our family to take a much deserved break together.  My Hubs knows me, and knows that there's no way we can relax and take a break as long as we are in The Lodge, so we're leaving town for the weekend, just to be sure I don't go anywhere near a paint brush or a hammer.  (I can't promise that I won't bring the iPad though and do a little blogging!)   Have a happy, and productive holiday weekend everybody!

May 26, 2011

Not Enough Time in the Day

The #1 question we have been asked since we've moved into the new home is, "Where do you find the time?"  So today, as we celebrate 1 month being in the new house, I thought it would be fun to take a break from The List, and give you all a peek into our schedule.

Thanks to my new and amazing short commute, Ryder and I leave the house each morning at 8AM, and that gives me plenty of time to drop him off at daycare and get to work by 8:30.  (Hallelujah!)  If I'm on the ball, I try to use my lunch break to run our errands to the various home improvement box stores, Ikea etc...  Luckily all these stores are within 10 minutes of my office, so it's an easy lunch hour round trip.  I leave the office around 5PM, and again am home with the little man by 5:30. (Hallelujah x2!)  Then Ry and I usually try to fit in a quick workout, either a run with Ry in the jogger, or a little Jillian Micheal's 30 Day Shred for some cardio & weight intervals.  Fitting in time for a workout is not optional for me, because it helps keep my energy up, and it's comforting to keep up a familiar routine.  (Plus, I eat ice cream like other people chew gum.)  There have been days that I thought I couldn't pound another hammer, and after a 30 minute workout I'm rearing to go again.

Ryder loves to do work out videos with me.  He puts on his own "Workout Outfit" and does jumping jacks, sit ups and push ups.  I get an extra ab workout from the laughing. 
After a quick workout, I make Ryder some dinner and then usually clean, fold a load of laundry or tinker with a small home improvement project while he's eating.  Not to give you the impression that our house is clean.  Because it's not.  Not. Even. Close.  We hang out a little after dinner together before he's down for bed at 8PM sharp.  We are super lucky to have an amazingly good sleeper, and all I have to do is ask him to look at the clock and he makes a break for his robot bed.

After bedtime the work begins, and I usually spend from 8PM until whenever I put myself to bed, usually between 11PM and 12AM, working on the project du jour.  That gives me about 7 hours of sleep before I need to wake up for work the next morning, which has so far been plenty for me.  Not to say that I'm not tired, because I am.  Oh Lord I'm tired.  In fact, the other day I had a dentist appointment and I noticed that I was enjoying the ability just to sit still for a few minutes WAY too much considering the buzzing noises coming from my mouth. Weekends are an all out marathon, working 7AM-10PM on nothing but projects, with the evenings reserved for sitting on the couch and blogging about our progress.

With all that said, we have A TON of help.  We're lucky that the Hubby works a schedule that is 4 days on, 4 days off.  Which means sometimes he works Monday-Thursday and is home with me for a super productive weekend Friday-Sunday.  Other weeks he works the weekend though, and is home with Ryder for the week. (Less daycare = More $$ for home improvements!)  While he is much too tired after his 12-14 hour work days to help me out with projects in the evenings, when he is home for his 4 days straight he really knocks it out!  I'm always impressed on what he is able to accomplish, while at home with Ry by himself, all while I'm away at work.

To top it off we have had the help an support of a lot of family and friends.  My parents have been an incredible help, probably because they see a lot of themselves in us.  When I was seven my parents knocked down the house next door, just before my Dad's summer vacation as a teacher, and built a brand new one from the basement up.  My Dad is the ultimate DIYer, and did it all with the help of my Mom and some family and friends.  We were moved in by November of that year.  Yep, I told you that he was amazing.

My Dad Gary, with my brother, on the foundation of the house he built for us.

My Brother and I paying on the scaffolding at the new house.  Apparently it started for me at a young age.
So our little huge home project feels pretty nostalgic for them I'm sure, and they have been so fabulous to come up and help us with our big dump.  Other friends and family have been generous enough to come over and spend a couple of hours with Ryder on the weekends or just take him to the park so that we can have a big chunk of time to dedicate to work.  This has been so helpful, as we want to build a comfortable and safe home for Ryder, but we still want him to enjoy the process and not feel left out.

And the result?  We have been living in The Lodge for 30 days today, and we have officially completed 39 items off The List.  (I haven't posted about all of them yet, as I need a few days to catch up to real life on the blog for photo editing, writing posts, etc...)  That's not to say that we always plan to keep up this pace, because we can't.  Not without a little Jessie Spano, caffeine pill enhanced "I'm So Excited" meltdown.  We're just in overdrive right now because I am compulsively obsessed with getting this home livable for my family.  Truly, it's all I think about.  When I close my eyes at night- I dream about it.  Imagine- walking though my house in bare feet.  Sitting on a sofa in the Living Room. Ahh... So we went a little insane that first month painting, tearing up floors, installing floors, etc...  but it was just because we really want to have a place that feels like a home, not a foreclosure.  After this big stuff is done though, we hope to slow down a little bit on the major projects and spend a little time with some fun stuff like arranging bookcases and hanging pictures.

So that's our story.  Crazy?  Yeah, I can't deny that.   But the progress we've made is so gratifying.  Thanks for your comments and encouragement along the way.  I swear they are keeping me sane.  (Realitively speaking.)

May 25, 2011

#58- We All Live in a Yellow...

Perhaps its the springtime, which has FINALLY come after a punishingly long winter this year, or the pops of color that seem to decorate all my favorite stores, but I've been yellow inspired lately. Our Guest Bedroom reaping the rewards, as you can see in this throw pillow post and this memo board post. So the next step was to find some beautiful, modern, patterned curtains to brighten up the space. Surprisingly, they are incredibly difficult to find in my favorite home decor stores though, so I found myself searching local fabric stores to make my own. Strike 2. At least at the national chain fabric stores in my area, as well as my fav discount fabric warehouse Mill End, there is no geometric, bright yellow patterns to be found. Boo. Thank the Lord for online fabric stores such as which had all of these beauties to choose from:

Really, I could win with any of these, but I especially love DU-790 and DU-217. (UR-988 is by far my favorite pattern, but I wish the beige was more white to work with the white duvet and trim.) All of these fabrics have about a $10-$15/yard price tag though (plus shipping), which is a little steep considering I'll need just short of 6 yards. So as I pondered my options, I stopped into Target one day, and passed this little bad boy on the end cap:

No, it's not a curtain, it's a 60" x 84" tablecloth, but all I saw was a 2 1/3 yard piece of interior width fabric, for only $9.99. (Which is about $4.30 a yard.) I scored 2 of these guys, plus a matching set of cloth napkins (just in case) for a total of $24.99.

The window in my Guest Bedroom is 7 feet wide, so two 60" panels will be perfect to close completely and still drape nicely in front of them. The 84" tall isn't so perfect however, as I'd really like my curtains to be 94" tall so that they fill the wall and make the windows look bigger. I figured that this busy pattern, all the way floor to ceiling might be a bit much anyway though. A little too much party and not enough polish. So I planned to top them with a crisp white to make them look more stately, sort of like this.

So I took a quick trip back to Mill End, and picked up 3 yards of bright white broadcloth and some more white thread for just $4.87. I know, big spender, right? The fabric was cheap because it was in the remnants section, which really just means that's it's from the end of a bolt, and isn't folded and wrapped nicely. I figured I could just wash and iron the fabric (which you should do before any sewing project anyway.) In retrospect, I'm not sure it was worth the savings, because I ended up spending nearly a full, sucky hour ironing this hot mess:

I was Cinderella, slaving over my hot iron. (That is if Cinderella could also drink a glass of wine and watch American Idol as she worked.) I basically followed the same steps as I did to make the curtains in this post, and got this:

The next step was to trim for length, which I always find so much easier to do as they are hanging. I just pin the hem to the right length, and then iron it with hem tape.

And after a little furniture rearranging and picture hanging, we had this:

What do you think? I'm actually thrilled with the way that the fabric softly drapes, even though these are made of outdoor tablecloths. And now, for the first time, I am realizing the major flaw in this little blog endeavor. I'll no longer be fooling anyone that comes to my house that it is furnished with nice, expensive things. I just flat out told the world that I have tablecloths for curtains. Cheap tablecloths at that. Oh well, small price to pay I guess for the outlet of sharing my triumphs (and more often frustrations) in DIY. You all knew I was a thriftster anyway. Not sure I was fooling anyone. :) We still have a little more accessorizing work to do in this room once those boxes are finally out of the garage and unpacked, but for right now, we'll call it a success!

May 24, 2011

#5, #12,# 32 & # 47- Now It's Starting to Get Tough.

Once we had the Living Room, Kitchen, Loft, Foyer and 2 hallways painted, it was FINALLY time to get started on those floors. Whoot Whoot! Step number one, remove the existing floors. The Hubs was so excited to get started, that I left for work one morning, and I stopped back home for lunch and found this:

Remember how I said how much he luuuvs to throw things away? Lucky for me this includes demolition and carpet removal, not just home decor items. Score one point for me. The carpet actually came up pretty easy, he just cut it into manageable squares with a utility knife and rolled up the pieces. We rented a dumpster for the project (which I'm sure our new neighbors are loving as it sits in our driveway- cue the banjo!), so he just hauled the carpet and the pad outside and it was game over. Before I came home from work that evening he was complete, so it was on to the tile.

The problem with any demolition job is that you never really know what you've got until you get started. We did a lot of internet research first, and were crossing our fingers for tile that was laid on Hardie Board or a similar type surface. Then we could just use the removal technique we see all the time on Holmes on Homes, which is break up and remove the tile to expose the Hardie Board below, unscrew the Hardie Board from the sub-floor, and carry out all the mortar, grout and remaining tile in one large sheet. Unfortunately, we weren't so lucky, and when we took out the sledge hammer and crow bar for the first time, we found this:

Let me give you the play-by-play on what you're seeing here. Instead of a nice, clean sheet of Hardie Board, what we have is heavy duty wire lath, that is nailed to the wood sub-floor, and then a layer of 1 inch concrete that was poured on top. Then they finished with the mortar, tile and grout on top of the concrete. (We later learned that Hardie Board, Durrock, etc... wasn't invented back in the early eighties when this tile was laid, or at least not yet widely used, and this was the most common tile install method at the time- a little warning to all you 1980's home owners/potential buyers out there.) We quickly did the math and realized that we would have to chisel concrete out of 450 square feet of our home. Not. Awesome. At. All.

Being without any other options though, we got started, first prying and chipping out all of the tile. This part was actually pretty easy, as the tiles weren't installed very well, which is why they were cracking and chipping to begin with.

The next part is where things got tricky- the concrete and lath. We pretty much went with a 3 step approach: 1. Hammer a chisel/pry-bar under the lath, 2. Pull up on the lath as hard as you can to lift it from the nails and break up the concrete on top of it, 3. Scoop up all the broken concrete and tile and place it in the trash bin. Repeat.




When we started, I honestly thought, "How the heck are we going to do this ourselves?" The job was so overwhelming, and it felt like there was no way that we would ever finish. But it wasn't that we didn't know how to do it or that we needed an expert, it was just really hard, excruciating work. Meanwhile the house was a disaster.  There was sharp wire coming out of the floors, chunks of concrete and concrete dust everywhere.  Let's be real here, it was back breaking, impossibly hard physical labor, but we could do it, and since we were saving in the neighborhood of $1500-$2500 doing it ourselves, we just kept going.

Eventually we found that if you try to roll a whole sheet of lath at once, it helps get it up a little quicker. A little...

But it was still crazy hard work. In the mean time Ryder stayed in his "Safe Zones" that we had designated for him, and worked at his own tool bench with his own pair of safety glasses:

And surveyed the construction work being done next door: (We had no idea when we purchased The Lodge that the owners of the house next door planned to level the current home on the property and build a new one from scratch.)

And we just kept chiseling, and lifting and hauling. When the 30 gallon trash bin was full, we'd haul it out to the dumpster.

And finally, after days of exhausting, morale depleting work, we had pulled up the last piece of lath.

I grabbed the camera to commemorate the huge moment, and asked The Hubby to "Say cheese" by the very last piece as he pulled it up. I got this:

"No seriously, give me a real smile."

After we finally stopped laughing we swept up the last of the concrete, and tried our best to mop up the concrete dust that had settled everywhere in our house that we couldn't close off (which is pretty much the whole house considering the huge ceilings and open floor plan.) We were physically beat in every way, but super proud of our progress in such a short period of time. As we went to bed that final evening, we tried not to think about all the hard work still ahead (laying new sub floors and installing all the hardwoods), which was pretty easy considering that we both crashed within minutes of hitting the pillow.

Only 4 words: I'm glad that's over.

May 23, 2011

#56- This is the Project that Doesn't End

Let's chop this project up to worse one so far, shall we?  After 4 hours of painting the trim & cabinets in the Laundry Room, the rest of that wretched wing of the house was laughing in my face.  You see, the previous owners had at some point painted all the natural oak wood white.  This is a concept that I'm not at all unfamiliar with, since we did the same thing in the basement of our Bungalow, and have seriously considered it for our Kitchen here at The Lodge.  Unfortunately, the previous owners may not have put their best foot forward in this endeavor, because the result was this:

Windows were painted, and then it looks like closed before they were fully dry, chipping the paint.

Thin layers of paint barely cover the wood in some places

More closing of the windows before the paint dried.

Dents and dings are everywhere

Door paint was just put on in 1 coat, leaving the original wood color still showing through in some areas, as well as drips of thick white paint in other areas. 

In general, it gave the home that, "I'm a Meth user" feel.  Instead of making everything feel crisp and bright white, it felt dirty and dingy.  So Saturday morning I armed myself with a gallon of decorator white door and trim paint, and got after the hallway, Guest Bedroom and Playroom.  I figured it would take about and hour, maybe 2 at most.  Wrong!  Perhaps it was all the cutting in and taping, not to mention all the chiseling, sanding and scraping of the old paint, but this beast of a project just wouldn't end!  Six hours later when the Hubby returned home, I was still at it. (Ryder was my little helper throughout the day, so we did have to take a lot of breaks for toy fixing, potty time and dance parties.)

The sad part is that since I was just painting the trim and not the entire rooms, the change was really minimal, and all my hard work didn't seem to make that big of an impression.  Don't get me wrong, I'm really glad I took the time, because it seriously took the home from Foreclosure to Home Ownership, it was just a whole lot of work for just the icing on the cake so to speak. 

Here's a few of those "Not quite as impressive as I was hoping" shots to prove my point:


Guest Bedroom


Better?  Yes.  Dramatic change to the home?  Not so much.  It certainly makes the Cappuccino White in the hallway pop, and the makes the gray in the Guest Bedroom nice and crisp.  Which means I can't wait to get started with the new color in the playroom, which you can see by the photo above that I'm still working with samples.   Cars on the road between The Lodge and Home Depot watch out, I'm coming through!